This August, Towne Park Brew Co. was happy to be a part of Connecting Thing’s event, “Blood, Sweat, and Beers”. Connecting Things, which served Towne Park IPA at the event, is a monthly speaker series that aims to bring creativity and entrepreneurship together. This month at Gigasavvy in Irvine they hosted Towne Park’s own Brett Lawrence, Bryan Giesen of Docent Brewing, and Bobby Fitzgerald of Gunwhale Ales to discuss their experience opening a brewery and the beer industry.
Gigasavvy’s office space was packed with a diverse crowd. People of all (over 21) ages were present, everyone with different careers and reasons for attending. One homebrewer was eager to learn how he could elevate his hobby and start nanobrewing. The speakers talked about everything from how old they were when they had their first brew to the greatest obstacle they had to overcome when building a business.
All three guests had great things to say. Each brewery had been open less than a year, a testament to Orange County’s growing beer culture. With a rapidly expanding industry dependent on mainstream trends, it was a little surprising to hear that all the panelists were interested in the long term drinkability of their beers rather than the growing market of specialty beers such as sours, high ABVs, and flavored beers. All three brewers emphasized their desire for customers to enjoy three or four beers in a sitting, as opposed to splitting one stronger beer with another person. At one point in the night an important comment was made about brewing in the increasingly trendy craft beer world, “any sort of nuance is really undervalued in the industry right now.” With so many new breweries popping up and quickly jumping onto the fun craft beer trends, much of the passionate craftsmanship of breweries like Towne Park is lost in the noise. That’s why we’re focused on brewing consistently high quality beers -- the more you enjoy our beers, the more you’ll notice the subtleties of the Towne Park taste.
A major hurdle all the panelists bonded over was the amount of time and dedication it took to open a brewery. Getting investors, maximizing brewing time, and building recognition within the community all take incredible amounts of time. Bobby still works a 9-to-5 job in San Diego while working at the Costa Mesa brewery. Bryan mentioned he is frequently brewing at 2:00 in the morning. Our owner, Brett, described the sacrifices he had to make in order to finance the brewery himself. Despite these obstacles, everyone’s passion for beer and confidence in their brand was what pushed them through the late hours and hard choices.
Even though the breweries had many similarities, there were differences in the way they ran their businesses. Both Docent and Gunwhale Ales have done a great job of expanding their presence on a regional level. But the Towne Park team wants something a little different.... national notoriety amongst enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike. The different goals of the breweries highlighted our different business model. Bryan from Docent argued for getting as much beer out to distributors as possible to build up the hype, even if he can’t always supply. He believed the exclusivity and limited quantities made for something more alluring, potentially making a diehard fanbase like Pliny the Elder.
Our founder Brett, however, has his sights set on national recognition and looks to a different approach for us. We’re so confident in our beer, we know you’ll be hooked on it the second you try it, so he’s cautious about building too big a fan base before being able to supply the demand. Slow and consistent growth will help Towne Park expand as demand increases. To get the word out to local restaurateurs, Brett has spent the past couple years brewing and hand-delivering our beer to different eateries around Orange County, quietly building a fanbase until our brewery can finally open its doors on September 23rd.
Thanks to Gigasavvy and Connecting Things for having us, we loved the event. It sparked thoughtful conversation about the direction of Southern California beer culture and we were happy to serve our IPA to an enthusiastic crowd.